Spicy Mexica Chorizo tamed with a touch of melty cheese all piled on to the cutest little Polenta squares. That’s my kind of appetizer. Maybe yours, too! And look, there’s red & green for Christmas…
Surprisingly delish – the spiciness of the chorizo and the melty cheese goes so well with the polenta squares. The squares, themselves have just a little crispness about the top and edges but are creamy, deliciousness inside. Oh, so tasty.
I don’t know about you, but for a Christmas party I’m always looking for appetizers that are exciting and fun & have just a touch of sophistication. Not too fancy or frilly or fussy, but not too down-home. So, neither “lady” or “guy” food, but something for both. Check.
And I want appetizers that are easy to pick up and eat in a bite or two, not too messy, and look great. They have to be ok if they sit for a while on a buffet and still be good at room temperature. I like an appetizer that has a little heft, especially with cocktails, but not too, too much so dinner isn’t spoiled. Yeah, these fit the bill. Check.
And for parties, I look for appetizers that are pretty easy & can be made all or partially in advance. But they can’t look and/or taste like it! And even better if they don’t break the bank. These Chorizo Polenta Bites are easy (although there are a few steps and some wait time) & great alternative to pricey fancy crackers or puff pastry apps…Check.
All my little “requirements” are a tall order, but these Chorizo Polenta Bites might just be the perfect party app! Start ahead so the polenta can cool in the fridge and be cut into squares. Then they can be baked off ahead, refrigerated and reheated. The Chorizo can be cooked up in advance. So for a party, just assemble and heat. Easy peasy!
Polenta is nothing more than cornmeal, so to save a few pennies, just buy a plain, yellow cornmeal. I used goat cheese in the polenta, but cream cheese will be just fine and any good, grating cheese – Parmesan, Asiago, etc. works really well. If Chorizo isn’t available or if you’d like to make your own, here’s my recipe – just make it a day in advance so those flavors get all comfy with each other.
Chorizo Polenta Bites
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups quick-cooking polenta or fine yellow cornmeal
- 4 ounces soft goat cheese
- 1/2 cup grated hard cheese, Parmesan or Asiago or your choice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- extra virgin olive oil to brush on top of the cooled polenta
- 1 10 ounce package Chorizo
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced, if desired for garnish
Line a baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper (see note).
Bring 1 quart of water (4 cups) to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add salt and slowly add polenta, in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. If the polenta thickens up immediately whisk in a little more water.
Turn heat down to medium low and switch to a wooden spurtle or a spatula. Continue cooking slowly until polenta is thick and creamy, stirring almost constantly (and getting back into the edges of the pan) about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, then cheese.
Spread out into parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, covering when cold, at least 2 hours but up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Move rack to upper third of oven, about four to five inches from the broiler. Place baking sheet in oven while it preheats. Unless you have a very large baking sheet, you’ll want to use two smaller sheets and bake off half of the squares at a time.
Flip polenta onto a clean counter or large cutting board. Brush the top (previously the bottom) with olive oil. Cut into 49 squares, each an inch and a quarter, (see notes). Place half the squares on the hot sheet, oil side up.
Bake 10 minutes, then increase setting to broil and cook polenta squares until golden brown on top, five to six minutes. The baking pan may need to be moved around under the broiler so the squares cook evenly. Repeat with the second batch, making sure to pre-heat the baking sheet.
These may be topped immediately or cooled and stored in a covered container in the fridge for a day or two.
If desired, polenta squares may be pan fried or deep fried, instead.
- Line only the bottom of your pan with parchment. Make sure it’s not sticking up the edges. You can trace it and trim it with a scissors. That makes the cleanest edge for the polenta so it won’t need so much trimming off and makes it easier to wrap the pan when cool so the edges don’t overly harden.
- I used a cookie sheet with a lip (9 x 13) and spread the polenta across it to about 10 inches. It gave enough room to slightly trim each edge by about 1/4 of an inch, except the raggedy edge which needed a bit more trimming.
- To cut the polenta, I used the a package of regular aluminum foil that measured 1 1/4″ inches across as a guide and a pizza cutter. I simply trimmed, set down the package and cut, moved it and cut and so on. Then I made certain the rows of polenta were lined up evenly, turned the foil and continued in the other direction. If you don’t have something 1 1/4″ to use as a guide, find something close to it, but spread your polenta out a little more if your “guide” is larger.
Place chorizo in a small cold pan with about three tablespoons water. Slowly bring it up to heat, very carefully breaking apart (a potato masher works well for this.) Cook for a few minutes until water is almost gone. Turn with a spatula and cook until Chorizo is cooked through. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
Add a little cheese to each square, then about a 1/2 teaspoon of chorizo, then a little more cheese. If the squares and chorizo are hot, the cheese will immediately melt and the appetizer is ready to serve.
If the polenta squares have been refrigerated, reheat in a 350 degree oven for several minutes until the squares are warm, then add the cheese, warm chorizo, and more cheese. If necessary, place back in the oven until the cheese has melted.
Sprinkle with chives or green onion if desired.
The recipe for the polenta adapted from Mad Hungry.
I’m proud to announce that I was featured with this recipe on Fiesta Friday!